Thursday, May 31, 2012

Devotional About Fear

I get daily devotions from Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I love them.  Today's devotion was written by Lysa TerKeurst, one of my favorite authors. 

It's about fear, and it's awesome!  Click here to read today's devotion.  It fits in perfectly with our recent discussions about fear (read here and here). 

If you would like to receive daily devotions from Proverbs 31, click here and enter your email address on the right side of the screen.

I hope you find them as encouraging as I do!


What's for Dinner?

It's rainy and gray here today, so I'm making Chicken and Noodles for dinner (seems warm and cozy).  I made this recipe for our extended family for Nora's birthday party, and everyone loved it.  I thought I'd share the recipe in case you need a dinner idea.

Chicken and Noodles

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts (as many as you'd like; usually 2-4)
  • 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
  • 2 cans Campbell's Chicken Gravy
  • Chicken broth (usually 2 cans, but you can use more or less)
  • 2 bags frozen noodles or one bag extra wide egg noodles (regular dried pasta)
Boil chicken breasts until fully cooked. Shred meat with two forks or dice into small pieces.

Combine the soup, gravy, and chicken in large pot.  Add noodles.  Add chicken broth to reach your desired consistency.  You can add more broth to make it soupier or less broth to make it thicker (remember some broth will be absorbed by the noodles).  Cook on medium/high heat until the noodles are cooked through, stirring occasionally.   


My notes:
  • This recipe can be made in a Crock Pot.  Just watch that your noodles don't get overcooked.
  • I made this several times successfully using the frozen noodles.  Then one night I made it exactly the same, but for some reason the noodles got mushy and almost doughy.  It was gross.  Since then, I use extra wide egg noodles instead.  I find it easier to judge when they are properly cooked.  I even use the wheat egg noodles for a bit of added nutrition.
  • We buy chicken breasts on sale and then transfer them to freezer bags and put them in the freezer.  That way I can pull out chicken whenever I need it (you can see the chicken in my picture is still fairly frozen!).  I keep the canned goods and noodles on hand, so this recipe is a very easy dinner idea even when we're in need of groceries.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ice Cream Cards for Teachers

My two younger children attend a Wednesday morning preschool program called TLC at a local church during the school year, and this week will be their last session.  I always give gifts to the teachers to thank them for their loving care all year.  The problem is that my kids are in two different classes, and each class has 3 teachers, so I have to produce 6 teacher gifts.

Whenever I need a gift for someone, I always ask myself this question:  Do I have more time or money?  If I don't have time but can squeeze some money out of the budget, I just save time and buy gifts.  But more often I find that I have time and supplies but not much money to work with.  So that's when I do something homemade.

For this year's teacher gifts, I went with a homemade/store-bought hybrid.  Our favorite local ice cream joint is called Double D's (yes, that name seems like it belongs to a different sort of establishment).  I went to Double D's and bought 6 gift certificates worth $5 each (more than enough to buy any delicious treat they have to offer).  I thought it would be nice to give them a summer treat as a reward for their hard work all school year.

Then I decided to make homemade cards to hold the gift certificates.  I already have lots of paper and cardstock on hand, so I could make the cards for free.  

I have a Silhouette SD (if you click on this link it will tell you about the newer model, the Silhouette Cameo).  It's a cutting machine that connects to your computer and uses special software (that comes with the machine) to create shapes.  Once you have the shape how you want it in the software, you load your paper/vinyl/fabric into the Silhouette machine and it will cut the shape for you.  Shapes generally cost $0.99 per shape on the Silhouette website, but I check the weekly clearance section and also take advantage of occasional sales.  The Silhouette Blog offers a free shape every Tuesday, and I download the shape each week no matter what it is (you never know what you'll need someday!).  

Here's my Silhouette SD in action:

For this project, I started with one shape:  an ice cream cone. 

I separated this shape to make one sheet of cones, one sheet of ice cream scoops (the tops), and one sheet of slightly larger outlines of the whole ice cream cone.

I went through my stash of solid colors of scrapbooking cardstock and chose colors I thought would be suitable.  Then I got to cutting.

I pressed one paper at a time onto the sticky cutting mat and fed it into the Silhouette.  Once each shape was cut, I removed the scraps of paper around the shapes and then removed the shapes.  Here's a shot of removing the paper around the cones:

Once I had all the parts of the ice cream cones cut, I used another shape to cut simple cards.  I sized them to be slightly smaller than 5x7 (to fit in 5x7 envelopes).  The cards have a scalloped edge on the front, and the machine cut perforations where the card needs to be folded.  

Then it was time to put everything together.  

I started by assembling the ice cream cones.  I used a glue stick to adhere the cones and ice cream to the blue outlines.

I love how the cone and ice cream fit together perfectly like puzzle pieces:

Then I glued the cones to the cards.

I thought they still seemed a little plain, so I added the word "Thanks" in various hand-written fonts on the cards (along the cones, just for fun).

On the inside, I wrote "Having you as a teacher has been such a TREAT!"  I matched the font of the word "treat" on the inside to the font of the word "thanks" on the front of each card.  'Cause that's the sort of thing that makes me smile.

Once all the cards were completed, I tucked a gift certificate inside each card (they fit perfectly!  Another random thing that made me smile) and put each card in an envelope.  

These were a little time-consuming, but this project cost me $0 (besides the gift certificates, obviously).  {See Jared?  It's a good thing I'm a craft supply hoarder.  I can whip up these free projects just when I need them.}

Once these were completed, I decided I wanted to do the same thing for Nolan's kindergarten teacher (why didn't I think to do hers along with the others?).  So she will be receiving a larger gift certificate to get treats for her whole family.  I'm also writing her a heartfelt thank-you because she has been so amazing with Nolan (and me!) this year.  

I have had kids in the TLC program for 4.5 years (Nolan only did the second semester his first year in the program).  I give the teachers gifts at Christmas time and at the end of the year.  So it has become a challenge to find affordable but cute/practical gifts for these awesome ladies.  And now we have regular school teachers to honor with gifts as well, so I will always be keeping my eyes open for new teacher gift ideas!



Monday, May 28, 2012

Big Girl Bed

This weekend marked a momentous occasion in our household.  We moved our daughter, our final baby, from her crib to a big bed.

I'm not gonna lie; it was a little hard on this Mama.  

This means there are no more little babies in our house (which has its upside but is also sad).  Plus Nora's crib was super special because it was handmade by my dad.  He put his blood, sweat, and tears into it.  {Literally.  He cut the end of his finger off while making the crib.}  It's now an heirloom, and we look forward to our grandbabies eventually sleeping in it.  But it breaks my heart to put it away in our attic for years.

One thing that helps soften the blow of putting the crib into storage:  my dad made me a cutting board using leftover wood from the crib and gave it to me for my birthday.  Isn't it beautiful?

We had been given a twin bed frame several months ago from a family member who was moving and no longer needed it.  I love that it's white and that it has drawers under it.  We do want to buy prettier knobs for the drawers though. 
I wanted to use the quilt my stepmom made for Nora using some of my favorite fabrics.  So I took the kids shopping so we could buy sheets, a mattress protector, and a pillow.  Nora was so excited!  She loved the shopping.  She asked me in her super high-pitched voice if she could have a pink pillow.  I talked her down to just a regular pillow with her pillowcase that matches her sheets.  

There was a bit of drama during the process of removing the crib and squeezing the twin frame through our narrow hallway (scraping paint off of two walls in the process).  The kids were very interested in everything we were doing.  They especially loved playing with her crib mattress out in the living room.  I snapped a quick photo of Nolan reading to Nora as they lounged on the mattress.  Nora insisted on wearing those boots with her shorts and tank top.

 I had fun putting the sheets and quilt on Nora's bed and making it all cozy for her.  

Nora was super duper thrilled with her big girl bed!  Her first time sleeping in it was naptime on Saturday.  She "read" a book until she fell asleep with the book on her chest and her feet on the wall.  It was pretty darn cute.

I'll leave you with pictures of Nora's treasured crib being used over the last two years.

 First time it was set up

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Memories in a Jar

I just discovered this really cool idea by Kellicrowe:

She makes time capsules to capture a year in the life of her family by putting pictures, trinkets, ticket stubs, and anything that has sentimental value into a jar.  The jars are out on display instead of buried out of sight, so her family can see their treasures and recall their precious memories.

I love this idea.  I'm a little intimidated with the idea of capturing an entire year in a jar.  I think it would be really fun to do a theme for a jar.  A family vacation.  A school year (a jar for each child).  Summer fun.  I think a smaller time frame would make it easier to choose treasures for the jar.  

My kids seem to be growing at warp speed, and my face and body seem to think that I am also aging.  I fell behind on scrapbooking, um, about 6 years ago.  I always think I'm going to write down stuff the kids say, but I don't get to it.  I think I'll remember things, but my tired brain seems to tuck memories into hidden places.  So this idea of capturing memories in jars is so perfect for me.  Organized.  Easy to follow through.  A reminder to me and my family of all we have done together.  

Plus, you know how much I love jars!  (Remember the centerpieces at my birthday party?)


P.S.  Did you notice anything different on my blog?  :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

God at the Salon: The List

I got my hair colored Tuesday night.  While I do enjoy the pampering (oh, the shampoo & head massage is my very favorite part!), it's actually my secret way of scheduling some time with my sister, who happens to be my hairdresser.  During this hair session, we had multiple conversations that all led back to one thing:  God.

Our conversations led me to understand, more than I have in a very long time, that God is who He says He is.

For today, I just want to share one particular conversation.

I have a list.  Not a very long list.  But there's this mental list of people I've been assigned to pray for.  For years.  Every time I hear a sermon admonishing the congregation to pray for the people in our lives, the same list comes to mind. 

Most of the people on my list are people I've prayed for for years.  Despite my desperate and repeated prayers, most of them haven't decided to fully trust God.  Some are in and out of church, and some have sworn off church altogether.

When I get frustrated with what seems to be a lack of progress, God reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Every time I talk to someone about God, or even when I try to reflect God's character in my own, I'm planting seeds in people around me.  The crop I'm hoping to harvest is to see these people acknowledge that Jesus died for them, accept God's forgiveness, and live out the rest of their lives in a loving relationship with Him.  {Is that so much to ask? :)}

So then I remember that I need to be content to do the work of planting seeds, even if I don't get to be the one to see them grow (i.e., seeing the people I love commit their lives to Christ).  But I will openly admit that I get frustrated after years of planting and tilling the soil, so to speak, without seeing any progress.

I was expressing these feelings to my sister in regards to one person on my list.  She understood what I was saying, but her response completely renewed my vigor to keep on praying.

Based on what we know about this person on the list, my sister said this person would likely be dead without the years of prayers.  

I hadn't thought of that.  I thought that my prayers were going unanswered because I didn't see any change in this person's attitude toward God.  But He had been answering my prayers all along by protecting this person and giving him/her more and more time and more opportunities to see Him.

This was a powerful moment for me.  I instantly stopped feeling frustrated and felt a fresh sense of the importance of praying.  

God is not hidden.  He does not make it difficult for us to find Him.  He is everywhere and can be seen by anyone who is looking.  It's so like Him to give my person as much time as possible to find Him.  

Sometimes it's hard to hold out hope for people who have been burned by someone in a church or who carry anger and resentment toward God.  I see people who have used all their energy to keep running from God, and I'm not sure if they're ever going to stop running.  The good news:  I don't have to stop them.  My job is to pray for these people and to share God with them whenever I have the opportunity.  God has all the hard jobs, and He is up to the task.  

I hope this encourages you to keep praying for the "lost causes" on your list.  God has been faithful, and He will continue to be forever and ever.  We do our small part and He does the rest.

Stay tuned for more about God at the salon!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coping Behaviors

Last week at Bible study, we got on the topic of the show Hoarders.  A couple women felt that the people on these shows are lazy; however, another woman pointed out that there are much deeper issues behind hoarding behavior.  I strongly agreed with her.

I am fascinated by the psychology behind behaviors such as hoarding.  Each person has a story.  There has been a loss or trauma that led them to form an inappropriate attachment to belongings and even trash.  

Even those of us who live in clean(ish) houses have more in common with hoarders than we might like to think.  

I experienced some trauma and developed an inappropriate attachment to food.  Food is necessary to survive.  Food on its own is not bad, evil, or unhealthy (well...some is unhealthy!).  However, I have turned to food to fill needs that are not physical.  

My relationship with food is a complicated web of hurtful actions, words, and attitudes.  I have identified many of the factors that have led me to where I am, and I'm doing my best to combat each one with truth.  I even created a chart to list the reasons for my unhealthy relationship with food, the truth that corresponds to each reason, and a Bible verse to support each truth.

Here are some examples (click to enlarge):

This is pretty personal stuff.  I'm hoping that since I'm being this vulnerable with you, you will at least take a moment to be honest with yourself.

What behaviors have you developed as a way of coping with life?  What has grown out of proportion?  Is there something healthy with which you have developed an unhealthy relationship?

I remember learning in a college psychology class that people often develop coping mechanisms that serve them well in a situation (such as abuse).  But then later in their lives, when they are no longer in that situation, they discover that the coping mechanism is no longer serving them well and may actually be harming them.  

The questions is:  How is this behavior working for you?

You may have learned to clean your house to settle your anxiety or exercise rather than show emotion.  Or maybe you drink alcohol to unwind from a stressful workday.  Or you get lost in online virtual worlds because it's easier than working on difficult relationships in your real life.

The actual behavior doesn't matter.  What really matters is what you're not doing.

When we rely on these coping behaviors, we're not relying on God.  

This is not just some preachy statement.  Remember, I'm the girl who just shared some details of my most personal struggle.  I'm not hurling fancy Bible verses at you.  I'm trying to help you see your coping behaviors for what they are and see God for who He is.

God is for us.  God is with us.  He heals.  He restores.  He already has plans for us, and he says they're good ones (see Jeremiah 29:11).  He asks the weary to come to him and dump their heavy burdens on him (see Matthew 11:28-29).  

The Bible is full of people with messed up pasts.  Some had junk handed down to them from previous generations.  Some made some pretty bad choices.  But all who were willing to receive experienced God's healing and restoration.

Think you're too far gone?  Think again.  David had a pretty good beginning, but then he derailed when he committed adultery and murder.  He sought God's forgiveness and was not only restored but was called "a man after God's own heart."  And God chose to bring Jesus into David's line of descendants.  

On the night Jesus was arrested, he warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times.  Despite Jesus' warning, Peter did indeed deny ever knowing his great teacher and leader.  After Jesus' resurrection, he sought Peter out for a private conversation.  He reassured Peter that his love for Jesus would never again fail and that he would live a long life devoted to telling others about Christ.

God shows us over and over that He is willing and able to restore us and make us whole, healthy, faithful people.  But somehow we don't believe that He will do for us what he has done for so many others.

Look at these verses:
  • "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." Luke 19:10 (NIV)
  • "When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'"  Mark 2:17 (NLT)
  • "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
  • "In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation."  1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
  • "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."  Psalm 51:12 (NLT) This is David after he committed adultery and murder.
  • "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Romans 8:31 (NIV) 
Are we making any progress here?

I can still bake and enjoy the creative process of making food.  And I can enjoy eating my food.  But when I need comfort, I need to be in prayer.  When I feel uncertain and need to find something/someone consistent, I need to open my Bible to see that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And when I need to know that I have value (and I'm not just the overweight girl), I need to rest on God's unfailing love for me.

How are your behaviors working for you?


Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's Day was A-mazing for me.

I have an obsession with my kids' little hands.  Jared, wise as he is, is aware of this obsession.  So he helped the kids make cards with their hand prints on the fronts.

After the hand prints were dry, he let them decorate the cards with markers and paper cut from paper punches.  Nolan wrote inside his card by himself:

The inside says, "I love you mom.  I love that you are my mom.  I love you because you love me.  I love you because you play with me."

And he continued on the back:

It says, "I love how you make goulash.  I love how you look in church clothes."  Nolan


For the younger two kids' cards, Jared asked them what they love about me and he wrote it inside their cards:

Griffin:  I love when you hug me.  I love your voice.

Nora:  I love when you paint my toes.  I love your kisses.

Nolan also gave me a gift he made at school.  First, there was a laminated poem with his hand print:

Nolan's teacher had also made a laminated and bound "cook book" called My Mom's Favorite Recipes.  Each child wrote a recipe all by themselves, which ended up being quite hilarious to see what ingredients they recalled and what temperature they thought the oven should be on.  Nolan's was Sugar Cookies:

His recipe reads:
You need eggs, sugar, and flour.
Mix it together.  Eat some of the cookie dough and then bake the rest of it.  The oven needs to be at 5 degrees and they cook for 3 minutes.
Oh, these kids make me smile.

Jared also got me a gift certificate to get this fancy shmancy face cream I've been wanting to try.  {Miracle Worker by Philosophy...this face needs a miracle!}  And he had my watch fixed so I can actually wear it.  Very thoughtful, in my opinion.

The morning was filled with the usual church craziness, followed by the usual lunch craziness and then naps.  After nap time, what I really wanted was some quality family time.  Since I got to boss decide what to do, I chose to give Nolan his birthday present--a new bike--a week before his birthday so we could all go up to his school blacktop and let the kids ride "bikes and trikes" (since Nora still rides a tricycle).    

It was awesome.  Jared had a classic parenting experience:  he worked with Nolan on riding a bike without training wheels.  The new bike is a little big for Nolan, so he got a little frustrated.  Plus my poor children don't get to ride bikes at home much because we live on a hill, and I'm terrified that they're going to go flying down the hill into traffic.  Griffin was happy as could be riding Nolan's old bike (now Griffin's).  Nora mostly ran around the blacktop, legs flailing about in her signature two-year-old running style.

When we were done with bikes and trikes, we stopped at the playground.  There were three boys already playing there, but one quickly jumped on his bike and rode away.  The other two boys informed us that he had peed all inside the tube portion of the playground equipment.  He sure had.  Ew.  I called and left a message for the school secretary, hoping she would have someone clean it this morning before students had a chance to play in it.

I did receive an unexpected Mother's Day gift.  At our church we have a program called Secret Sisters.  You fill out a card with your name, address, birthday, anniversary, and a few of your favorite things.  Then you receive someone else's card, and you are her Secret Sister for the year.  You send her occasional encouraging cards and gifts.  

Well, this year my Secret Sister is super duper awesome.  She even sent me a card for St. Patrick's Day.  She left a large gift bag for me at church yesterday.  It had a nice big picture frame that holds 4 photos, a gift card to Hobby Lobby (my home away from home), and a super sweet Mother's Day card.  I was blown away!

This morning as I was putting away my Mother's Day spoils, I emptied the bag from my Secret Sister and discovered 2 more gifts!  She had also given me a box of Junior Mints (one of my favorite candies) and a box of fancy note cards (one of my addictions...weird, I know, but I can't help it).  You'll never guess which Bible verse the cards have on them...

Philippians 4:4

So, either my Secret Sister reads my blog or God really does use every possible chance to remind me of Philippians 4.

The best quote of the whole day comes to us courtesy of Nolan:
 "Mom, if you were a booger, I'd pick you first."


Another Deal

You can get another great deal today at the cosmetics website Eyes Lips Face.  

Use code MOM2012 to get free shipping with a $15 purchase.  They offer many items priced at just $1, so you could potentially get 15 items for $15 with free shipping.

I have ordered several products from this website.  Some have been great, and some weren't so great.  I generally buy my cosmetics from Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS.  Since I'm not already used to something like Clinique or Mary Kay, I find the ELF cosmetics to be comparable to drug store cosmetics.

Here are some of my favorite products:

I love this powder.  However, it doesn't last long (only 3-4 weeks), and it's annoying to scrape it out of the edges to finish it off.

This has lasted over 3 weeks on my toes!
Products I wasn't so impressed with:

There are still lots of products that I haven't tried.  ELF has codes for free shipping (usually with a minimum purchase of $13-15) every few weeks.  Since I'm already used to drugstore quality cosmetics, I enjoy trying some new products.  You could also find some good items to give as gifts (teacher appreciation pampering set, thank-you for a friend, etc.).